Democrats in contested New York City districts fall behind to Republican challengers

There was a light turnout at the polls today for voting on five charter revisions and two candidates in two boroughs. Photo by Todd Maisel)

What do Assemblyman Ed Braunstein, state Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus have in common? If early poll numbers are to be taken at face value, these lawmakers could be ousted from their seats located in traditionally conservative districts.

With Nov. 3 poll numbers giving the abridged version of Tuesday’s election without absentee and affidavit counts, these Democratic elected officials came in at a disadvantage to their Republican challengers, most of whom had only recently entered the political arena as candidates.

Northeast Queens

With over 96% of scanners reporting in the wee hours on Wednesday, it would appear that John-Alexander Sakelos has come out ahead of Braunstein who has served in the northeast Queens district since 2011 despite the area making a turn from conservative leadership in the last decade to progressive Democrat.

But Braunstein explained in a statement that he had reason to not concede just yet.

“More than 14,000 mail-in ballots have already been returned by the voters of Northeast Queens-and fewer than 15% of these were mailed by Republicans,” a spokesman for Braunstein said. “Once the thousands of Democrats have their votes counted and their voices heard, we are confident Edward Braunstein will be returning to the Assembly.”

This evolution can be seen in the turn from former city Councilman Dan Halloran, a Republican who was expelled from government after being convicted on corruption charges and serving time in prison, to the election of Councilman Paul Vallone, who still holds office in Bayside. Between 2010 and 2018, former state Senator Tony Avella had held the overlapping district until he was ousted by progressive favorite, Senator John Liu.

Avella had been a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of breakaway democrats viewed as turncoats to the then-Republican majority in the Senate.

In 2018, Braunstein beat Republican opponent David Bressler, a prominent businessman, with 65% of the vote.

According to citywide numbers from the Board of Elections show up to 3.2 million votes went to Joe Biden while only about about 586,000 ballots cast were for President Donald Trump. Queens showed the highest support for the current White House administration with over 181,200 votes going to Trump and Vice President Pence and 412,300 going to Biden and Kamala Harris.

In Braunstein’s district, the 26th, Trump voters outnumbered Biden supporters by less than 300, according to yesterday’s figures.

Much of this Republican support came from south Queens and the Rockaways, which voted Trump in 2016 as well, and northeast Queens.

Bucking this trend was Rockaway Assemblywoman Stacy Pheffer Amato, who held her seat as a Democrat.

South Brooklyn

State Senator Andrew Gounardes’ narrow 2018 victory over long-time Republican incumbent Martin Golden, with 50.9% of the vote, only lasted two years before Vito Bruno rose to challenge him in the Bay Ridge centric district in 2020.

Bruno’s lead at this time is compelling. 

BOE numbers show the former candidate for Brooklyn borough president has a compelling lead of almost 54% of the vote with 97% of scanners reporting Wednesday morning.

“There are several thousand in-person votes which have not been reported, nearly 13,000 mail-in ballots which have been returned already, plus additional mail-in ballots which have not been processed or received. The outcome of this election will hinge on these votes, and I am confident that once these votes are counted, we will prevail,” Gounardes said. “As we wait for the democratic process to play out, I could not be more grateful to every voter, volunteer, supporter, and member of my team who worked tirelessly on behalf of our campaign, and to each and every member of our community. The work continues.” 

The victory of Gounardes in 2018 symbolized a wider victory for the Democratic Party as it was one of the many seats swept up by progressives, leading to a waning of power for the Republican majority in the senate.

Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus, in the 46th District, could only be serving about two years in the Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Coney Island and Brighton Beach district, having assumed office in late 2018 after her predecessor Pamala Harris resign due to being indicted for fraud.

Frontus’ time in office has proven rocky, with the mental health advocate and community organizer being plagued by hight turnover in staff.

Republican Mark Szuszkiewicz, who has a background in the real estate and insurance, according to Ballotopedia, is currently ahead with 54% of the vote and 99% of scanners reporting Wednesday morning.

While 15,500 voted for Biden in Frontus’ district, nearly 18,900 voted in support of Trump. Gounardes’ district overlaps with Frontus for the most part.

Check back for more updates on these races with amNew York Metro and Brooklyn Paper.

More from around NYC